This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
— Jeremiah 29:4-14
As the saying goes, “there are two kinds of people.” It seems as we enter this season of national decision that we fall either into a deep partisanship that wears party loyalty like loyalty to a sports team, ready to excuse faults on “our” side and point readily to faults on “their” side; or we declare with certainty, “I don’t like politics.” The thing of it is, politics simply means the life of the “city,” the life of our community, the life of our nation.
During the darkest period of the history of Israel, the Lord God told the people of Israel, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you.” Care about the life of the community, God implores. Care about what will make our common life better. To be sure, there are differing opinions about what exactly will make our common life better, and different ways to measure what will make our community better. Even so, at its best, that is what politics is about: seeking the welfare of the city.
Nearly 250 years ago, John Wesley offered 3 rules for the process of politics, in words that ring as true today as they did then:
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side. (Journal, Oct. 6, 1774)
This is my.song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
“Give us some distance from the noise,
some reserve about the loud success of the day,
that we may remember that our life consists
not in things we consume
but in neighbors we embrace.
Be our good neighbor that we may practice
your neighborly generosity all through our needy neighborhood.”
— Walter Brueggemann, “Super Bowl Sunday”
Pastor Tom Greener